Chicago Cubs Utility Man Not Happy About Being Demoted

Most Major League Baseball clubs would love to have the problem that the Chicago Cubs are having right now. They’ve actually got too many good players.

Even after a rough stretch that saw their National League Central lead over the St. Louis Cardinals dwindle by quite a few games over the past month, the Chicago Cubs still entered this weekend of play with the best record in baseball. After dropping the first two games of a crosstown matchup with the Chicago White Sox, the Cubs won the last two in the series and beat up on the Seattle Mariners in the first game of a weekend set at Wrigley Field for their third consecutive victory. They’re still on pace to win close to 100 games and many are still picking the Cubs to finally end their 108-year drought and win the World Series. And that aforementioned deep roster is one of the big reasons why.

Having a load of young talent, not only in the big leagues but also in the minors, is what’s allowed the Cubs to maintain their division lead and also allowed them to move quite a few players in the Aroldis Chapman deal earlier this week. Chicago’s depth certainly came in to play as it seemed just about every outfielder hit the disabled list at some point this season (and that’s not including the season-ending injury to Kyle Schwarber the first week of the season), but they finally ran out of room on Friday as they were forced to send utility man Tommy La Stella back down to the minors to make room for the returning Chris Coghlan.

Chicago Cubs Utility Man Not Happy About Being Demoted [Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images]Unfortunately for La Stella, who usually plays at third base when he starts, but has spent time all over the diamond this season, the Cubs were essentially out of options….literally. You see, a player can only be sent down to the minors a certain number of times, meaning they would have to clear waivers before being sent down, which would allow other teams to claim said player. Such is the case with Cubs reserve Matt Szczur, who is out of options and is also a right-handed bat off the bench. Coghlan and La Stella are both lefties and with Coghlan’s veteran status, the only call Chicago could make was to send La Stella back to Triple-A Iowa, a decision that did not sit well with La Stella. At least that’s what Cubs manager Joe Maddon told CSN Chicago.

“(La Stella did not take it) well. And he shouldn’t take it well, honestly. It’s an unusual moment we’re in right now where we have so many guys. This is definitely an advocacy for a 27- or 28-man roster.

“I would not make up any kind of excuse or try to give (the media) any kind of reason other than the fact it was hard to do, (La Stella) didn’t like it and again, it’s part of the rules and how they are constructed in our game that kinda forces you into different moments.”

Chicago Cubs Utility Man Not Happy About Being Demoted [Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images]The decision to move La Stella certainly couldn’t have been an easy one for Maddon and the Cubs’ front office. In 51 games this year, La Stella has hit a solid.295 with an on-base percentage of.388. Coghlan, who returned to the Cubs after starting the year with Oakland, has hit just.205 in 20 games since returning to the North Side, but did hit.500 with a 1.369 OPS in five rehab games with Double-A Tennessee. Matt Szczur currently has a.291 average in 67 appearances this season.

The only other real option for Chicago was to send down reliever Carl Edwards, but with a 0.75 WHIP and a 1.84 ERA, they chose not to make that move. Maddon, who’s been in baseball for more than 40 years, knows that these tough decisions are just part of the game and knows that he’ll have another choice to make soon once Jorge Soler is ready to return from the disabled list as well.

“These are the rules. And in order to retain everybody that we want to, we had to do it this way.”

That’s baseball for you. And these are the new problems of the Chicago Cubs.

[Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]